Read or click the link below to see my first live video about Art Therapy in Ashen Art and FallRisk Art!Ash's Speech"For those of you who don't know me, I used to work in research in neuroscience, and in neuroscience, we like to research our external environment. Without further ado, raise your hand if you have sweaty armpits right now? I know I do standing on this stage. Can you tell it's my first time? Ok, who here has smelly feet at the end of the day? Good. Here's a tougher question, who here has suffered from anxiety or depression at some point in time?The main point I'm trying to make right now is not to depress you, but showing that mental disorders are as commonplace as sweaty armpits and smelly feet. Some individuals are more prone to sweaty armpits because of a hot environment, or genetically they're more likely to sweat. Similarly, individuals can be more inclined to anxiety because of their temperament, or they may live in a highly stressful environment. But there is always help and coping strategies. For instance, I suffer from seasonal depression and anxiety attacks; yet, I use art therapy as a way to alleviate my symptoms and as a conduit for an internal monologue. Art therapy allows for free expression through almost any media. Similar positive results from art therapy are seen in individuals diagnosed with cancer- alleviating stress and anxiety before and after chemotherapy. In individuals with severe anxiety, the physical process of painting grounds them and removes the mind from fixation. In individuals with schizophrenia, they rate their treatment as the same as before art therapy, but there is some debate as to whether they understood the poll. But what does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. Art therapy is just a doorway to finding something you're genuinely passionate about. Something that speaks to you and is with you even after everything is stripped away."
In the Sandman’s absence, a black hole of loneliness, jealousy, and sadness can take hold. The average individual requires 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. The time needed for rest varies on the individual and the amount of external information entering the brain at a time. Sleep regulates a multitude of bodily functions such as body temperature, mood, learning and memory, and immune system; however, the effects of insomnia or nightly lack of sleep vary between individual.
What determines the amount of sleep needed from individual to individual?
Sleep required is variable, some studies suggest rest is necessary to resolve the waste of the brain's metabolism and solidify neuronal connections. Other theories suggest this is a simplistic viewpoint for the intricate workings of the brain.
How does the brain tire out? Why do we tend to have more energy when we are unchallenged in a day?
Studies conducted by Michel Siffre may shed some light on the question. Michel Siffre lived in a subterranean cave in isolation for two months in 1962; and spent time reading books and articles away from human-conceived time. He found through his study, and other studies, that although the human body seemed to have an innate biological 24-hour clock, independent of light-dark periods, it is based on the amount of mental activity the individual requires. For example, some test subjects were able to attain 48 hours "days" in which an individual was active for 36 hours and slept for 12 to 14 hours. Based on tests of two other subjects in isolation in caves, Siffre found that every ten extra minutes of activity spent, one additional minute of REM sleep tacked on for that night.Similarly, a study conducted by Karim Alkadhi, et al. found that the amount of sleep required is inversely related to the basal metabolic rate of the brain. Is our rest correlated to the amount of metabolic strain on our minds in just everyday life? Could our brains be worn out from all the external stimulation from daily life resulting in our need for drugs to stay awake? Studies on university students found the most common reasons for poor sleep was related to technology, alcohol, stimulants, and caffeine. Additionally, sleep deprivation in the first year of college was a precursor to a low GPA.
What parts of the brain control sleep? Why does the brain "malfunction" when slumber is missed?
Although there is some debate as to whether sleep causes deficits in reaction time versus processing skills, a recent fMRI study suggests sleep decreases the efficiency of certain parts of the brain, while increasing efficiency in others. Meanwhile, sleep deprivation can cause other effects throughout the body:
- Deficits in homeostasis reestablishment post-threat/during exercisepro-inflammatory responses increasing: tumor necrosis factor, IL-6 release, C-reactive protein
Each sleep stage possesses a particular cellular and anatomical structure -each sleep stage has a specific function
To make this post easier to digest, I created bullet points to breakdown the overall effects of sleep deprivation for further discussion below.
- Increase in corticosterone and ACTH
- Increase in Na-K-ATPase activity in the brainstem & cerebellum
- Metabolic disturbances in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, & amygdala
- Delta and theta wave activity during waking hours
- Reduction of glucose metabolism 6-8% globally in the brain
- However, a 15% reduction of glucose metabolism in the prefrontal cortex, frontal cortex, and thalamus
- Reduction of oxidative damage caused by metabolism during waking hours
- Inhibition of hippocampal cell proliferation and neurogenesis
- Global efficiency in processing time decreased, however, increased efficiency in specific areas of the brain
- Efficiency decrease in the anterior cingulate, the inferior parietal gyrus, the caudate nucleus, the and the thalamus
- Efficiency increase in the temporal gyrus and more activity seen in the prefrontal cortex
What does this all mean? (the technical stuff)
Your crankiness and attitude towards other people is your brain crying out for sleep! Corticosterone is a hormone which can either be a glucocorticoid, a sex hormone or a mineralocorticoid. Fundamentally, corticosterone can affect stress, hormone levels, mineral or metabolism levels in the body according to the way it affects the hypothalamus. ACTH is an abbreviation for adrenocorticotropic (ACT) hormone which is released in the pituitary gland in response to excitation of the hypothalamus by corticosterone. ACTH stimulates the pituitary gland to release glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids affect cell metabolism, neuronal plasticity, stimulation or inhibition of specific gene transcription, and immune response inhibition to name a few.Concerning delta and theta waves, there are five waves the brain shows during electroencephalography. The delta wave (see picture below) is associated with deep sleep. Theta waves are associated with emotional processing communication between the frontal lobes and the limbic system and memory performance and low brain activities. Alpha waves are related to the inhibition of specific brain areas which includes calmness and alertness; beta waves are focused activity and cognitive tasks, gamma waves and associated with events of "higher moral" levels.The hippocampus is the center of the brain responsible for memory retention. The amygdala is for threat and emotional processing. the Prefrontal cortex is for judgment, essentially the "conscience" of the brain. The thalamus is responsible for the regulation of sensory information entering the brain into consciousness. The cerebellum is the densest neuronal area of the brain and is responsible for posture, refined motor skills, and balance; however, some believe it has more functions that are unknown so far.The caudate nucleus is a part of the basal ganglia, responsible for movement. The temporal gyrus is located in the temporal lobe and is responsible for sound interpretation and processing. Similarly, the inferior parietal gyrus in the parietal lobe is also affected, which is responsible for language and mathematical operations. The previous descriptions of anatomical brain areas are shortened versions of each respective role. Some information may be missing to maintain conciseness in this post.
Why this subject?
I work and go to school through the week, usually with only Sundays as my days off, and I feel the strain just on 8 hours of sleep. My caffeine addiction, which I don't need otherwise, becomes much worse than when I have rest. Once I'm home from a 9 hour day at work I either continue my work on paintings or school work. Typically on Sundays, I can sleep 15 hours and still want more time. Interestingly as the work week continues and my sleep credit racks up, I become irritable, sensitive to light and noise, despondent, tremendous confidence drops and, in extreme cases, hear and see sounds or objects not in my external environment. As much as I know this is an unhealthy state, I demand it.Would I trade my 16 hour work days and 8 hours of sleep for 36 hours straight of activity and 14 hours of sleep? Yes, I think anyone would. Life's fastpaced environment and demands for success, or perhaps my desires for success, require sacrifice. I either sacrifice my workout time, which keeps me healthy, for sleep; or sacrifice my sleep for exercise. Work is less negotiable on times I can attend versus rest. Which begs the question: for whom am I living? Myself, or the company I am employed? Am I happy in the job I currently work in? Or, would I rather lose sleep over a job I feel passionate about?I hope you enjoyed this post because I did lose sleep over it! Any questions or comments on material or sources, please feel free to email me!
Between five classes and painting, here's a sneak peek of new paintings to come on print and subjects discussed this summer on FloorNine !Some subjects include:
- Adorno's Good Development
- A Male Perspective on Fairytale Love
- Tarot Card Reading and the Neuroscience of Spirituality
How do I forgive myself for what I fear most? I feel my brain roll, as if to the cooler side of the pillow, ejaculating darkness to the top of its world. Like an uprooted tree, the pitch uncoils it's furls from the sodium growths. It progresses to the deepest grottoes of my mind. The infection slicks by as circles dance at my feet. Each offense, each victim, each face, each breath, each abuser, to each member - I let them all in like a sapling reaching for the sun. Waiting for someone to lift me from the shadows and I expected a fair trade. But didn't I ask for each fleeting moment to feel what I could not for myself? Didn't I make the decisions, one after another, that placed me in this corner of the world? When do I stop hiding from myself? How do I begin to forgive myself? To forgive is the act of letting go of resentment, hostility or bitterness of someone who has offended another in some way. True forgiveness is understanding responsibility and releasing one's self from guilt and rebuttal. Forgiveness is a psychological defense allowing one to be criticized without significantly affecting one's self-regard, self-efficacy, and overall health. Additionally, it will enable individuals to act and react within society's boundaries. However, there are two other versions of forgiveness corresponding to two separate personality differences.
"a willingness to abandon self-resentment in the face of one's acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering compassion, generosity and love toward oneself"
Two other forms of forgiveness fall under the umbrella term pseudo forgiveness, in which the offender does not undergo the forgiveness process in a "healthy" way. These two types are self-condemning and self- exonerating. Self-condemning individuals experience low overall self-forgiveness, high self-condemnation, and high responsibility. In such a case, the individual will consistently blame him/herself for the offense; and, instead of learning and moving on, he/she will fixate on the issues - replaying it. In this way, the individual freezes future development. This type of personality tends to have vulnerable narcissism. Vulnerable narcissism is characterized by the person seeking approval from others to establish/boost his/her own low self-esteem. Although he/she strives for other's approval, he/she is extremely sensitive to criticism. Additionally, these individuals may show vindictive and domineering behaviors in contrast to his/her need for support.
the self-forgiving and self-exonerating states didn't differ on traits like self-compassion and neuroticism
In contrast, self-exonerating individuals do not give the victim the closure, nor the understanding he/she deserves. For instance, imagine someone hurting you, then when you confront them, he/she completely ignores what you say? It feels invalidating as if your opinions don't matter. Individuals who portray this kind of trait tend to rate higher in grandiose narcissism. Grandiose narcissism can be characterized by that guy who always had an excuse for his behavior. Basically, it's a 3-year-old's reasoning of, "Well, he made me mad and wouldn't stop talking so that's why I hit him." In forgiveness, this individual rates high in end-state forgiveness, low in responsibility, and low in self-condemnation. Additionally, these individuals feel a lack of empathy towards whomever they hurt, whether accidental or premeditated (in a sense), are hypersensitive to criticism and may portray him/herself as the victim, although he/she is the perpetrator.Although both of these personality types are considered unhealthy alternatives, self-exonerating personalities may be apart of a healthy range of functioning. Both self-exonerating and self-condemning could be two ranges in interpersonal defense.
What parts of the brain does forgiveness involve?
Forgiveness involves multiple facets of the brain including the inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate cortex, and the posterior cingulate cortex, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In a study observing the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in forgiveness, theta-burst-stimulation was used in this area during a game in which the subject was to determine whether to forgive an unfair opponent or seek revenge. The study found subjects who were faced with high conflict situations, usually when the individual had to decide whether to overlook his/her unfair opponent, look longer to make a decision with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was inhibited. However, the response pattern towards fair opponents remained unchanged, suggesting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is only involved in high-conflict situations. In other words, it steps in when we have the urge to respond poorly to an offense in a sense - the sense of satisfaction you feel when you see someone who has wronged you get hurt is inhibited. So in this case, forgiveness is somewhat of a logical choice to maintain socially acceptable responses.But, in such a case in which you are the victim, judge and the society of which sees the offense yet are unwilling to forgive? Or better explained as unable to understand where to begin, what stage do you start? Which areas of your brain condemn you?
Here it is! The Brain Misconceptions, Part II. If you read my previous post, I have been entrenched with exams and work, and I haven’t had much time to write, much less do research for this blog post. But here it is - finally! The “Crimeful Men” section took the longest to write just based on research and attempting to sort through the points I wanted to make. I was honestly caught between explaining two different disorders and a subsection of a disorder before I could really understand what I wanted to say. Since Crimeful Men is also a section comparing genders, I felt it was my responsibility to look at underlying media themes in the portrayal of women in crime and scholarly articles ranging from the late 90’s to now to try to find the most precise analysis of the subject I chose.
6. Crimeful Men
On behalf of all the men in the world, antisocial personality disorder has a 3:1 ratio of men versus women affected. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by, “aggression towards animals and people, destruction of property, deception or stealing, impulsiveness, hostility, engagement in dangerous acts, irresponsible behavior, and an absence of remorse,” by at least 18 years of age. In addition, the individual must fulfill at least 3 of the following characteristics,
- “A failure to observe social norms which can result in legal action
- A deceitfulness including lying to and using others
- Failure to plan ahead
- An irritability and aggressiveness that escalates to physical fights
- A reckless disregard for the safety of others
- An irresponsibility such as a failure to pay debts or perform duties at work
- A lack of remorse when another person is hurt.”
Let’s be honest, sometimes we all feel numbers 3 and 7, like I tend to laugh when a little kid falls down. Although antisocial personality disorder is not the only disorder which may lead to violence, it is one of the most commonly referred to in the media, usually by the term psychopathy. Despite the fact that psychopathy is a subsection of antisocial personality disorder, it, and sociopath have recently become interchangeable in society even though the terms defining very different behaviors. Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize the terms sociopath, and other interchangeable descriptions, as an actual medical condition to fit within the umbrella antisocial personality disorder. Now, personality disorders, in general, have a higher prevalence in women than in men; however, as I stated above, antisocial personality disorder is seen thrice more in men than in women. In the cases in which women were diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, the symptoms and signs were less apparent than in men. Though men tended to use violence more often, have a history of arrests, starting fights, and cruelty to animals women showed an array of different behaviors. This could suggest antisocial personality disorder may be just as common in women as it is in men; however, either due to biological predispositions or social expectations on how women should act, women are less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. To expand further, there may be a difference in the ways women react to a threat in comparison to men - the “Tend and Befriend” Theory. This theory states when a female is stressed by a threat or environmental circumstances, they tend to befriend others in the community and tend to any offspring. Although this is most likely not true when it is applied to individuals with personality disorders (and is a general theory, therefore shouldn’t be applied to individual cases), it portrays a difference in sex which may have been overlooked when creating diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder. In fact, women diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder were found to be more irritable, lack remorse, and have multiple sex partners, and higher incidences of childhood trauma and neglect. However, the data is limited to individuals who are either mandated therapy or seeking therapy for their problems (typically, antisocial personality disorder is comorbid with substance abuse disorders). This leaves a large portion of individuals who do not seek help or who are antisocial but do not see fault in their actions. An additional hindrance to data research is the lack of observation in support groups differences between men and women, for example, close friends. For instance, women may talk more often about issues they are facing with their close friends versus their male counterparts. The support group may be an integral part of why there is a diagnostic difference in sex. Further research showed women with antisocial personality disorder also had higher rates of adult adverse events than men. These adverse events may have preserved or increased the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. Also, it may be a woman’s physical strength which acts as a hindrance to both defending themselves from adult abuse and encountering physical fights.
Let’s redefine this movie- the character portrayed by James McAvoy suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. This disorder has been portrayed (and dramatized) many times in Hollywood, firstly by Sally Field playing Sybil in 1976. Dissociative Identity Disorder is less multiple personalities or beings inhabiting one mind, and more like all the personalities, or faces, not meshing completely into one unified individual. For instance, the personality you use at work is different than the personality you use around your roommates which is also very different from the personality you use around your parents. Imagine all those different “faces” you wear not meshing correctly and, instead, projecting in multiple directions and developing separately on their own. In that sense, it is similar to having multiple personalities, but in reality, it’s one’s self not creating a unified whole. Dissociative personality disorder is typically 1-3% in a population with more diagnoses in men than women. During an “episode” the affected individual may shift between completely different personality sets. The personality - separate from the “host” personality - can have separate memories, behaviors, and traits. Additionally, the host can be completely unaware of the separate personality or occurrences during the personality’s control - giving the host a sense of amnesia and lost time. Sound familiar? These are some of the same symptoms Christianity defined to “diagnose” demonic possession. Regardless, 90% of individuals suffering from this personality disorder had severe childhood trauma and almost 100% of them suffered from amnesia during one event of their life - which may have played a key role in their personality incongruence.
8. Vaccines Cause Autism
Let me take a moment to break this argument down to its bare bones since there are multiple angles to misinterpret information. Firstly, mercury derived preservatives were removed from vaccinations in 1990. Secondly, and most importantly, Andrew Wakefield, the gastroenterologist who originally published false data stating that the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination caused autism was banned from the scientific community after his findings were proven false - mainly because he lacked a control group and his findings were not reproducible in any lab setting. Here’s a historical example in which a case was made: Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss who championed hand-washing during surgery. Dr. Semmelweiss worked at a maternity clinic, trying to determine why so many mothers were dying of puerperal fever. He compared two wards of the clinics, one with doctors and their medical students and the other with midwives. He found the mother in the doctor’s clinic were five times more likely to contract and die from puerperal fever than the mothers in the midwives’ ward. Dr. Semmelweiss needed to know what was different in either case so he varied each environment. Sometimes he would vary the way the woman was laying on the bed, etc. It wasn’t until a pathologist pricked his finger and died from puerperal fever did he realize that the fever was not restricted to just the mothers in bed, that it had been transmitted from patient to doctor. What was the difference between the doctors and the midwives though? The doctors and medical students were performing autopsies on individuals who had already died from puerperal fever then going to the maternity ward and transmitting the fever to the mothers. Once doctors and medical students began washing their hands between patients, deaths decreased significantly. How does this relate to the autism debate? Dr. Semmelweiss’s procedure, although incidental, is a perfect example of cause and effect and scientific study. In contrast, Dr. Wakefield’s study did not even have a significant correlation to the data. For instance, Wakefield’s main argument was based on autistic children’s gastrointestinal sensitivity. He theorized the vaccinations induced intestinal inflammation which released encephalopathic peptides resulting in autism spectrum disorders. If this was a key ingredient to developing autism, then all autistic children should have gastrointestinal sensitivity prior to developing autism but after having the vaccinations. Based on the children’s medical records this was not found. In fact, some autistic children did not have sensitive gastrointestinal tracts both before and after autism symptoms appeared. Additionally, the same time individuals develop autism is roughly the same time they receive the vaccination. To further diminish parents’ fears, a comparison study was made in countries which did not have the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccinations. In these countries, the incidence was the same as our developed countries, if not less. Thus, based on basic scientific theory, autism is not caused by vaccinations or the mercury-based preservatives in vaccinations. If this was the case, large populations of children would be suffering from autism spectrum disorders.
9. Old Dogs Can't Learn New Tricks
The aging process has two main aspects: an inability in reestablishing homeostasis and demyelination of neurons resulting in a slowed neuronal action potential. Despite these setbacks, older individuals are still able to learn new information and maintain their quality of comprehension. Mainly through maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This has a lot to do with having a healthy circle of friends - loneliness is a leading cause for the development of physical illnesses. Additionally getting enough sleep every night, eating healthy, and exercising plenty. Essentially, enjoying your life. Sleep, exercise and keeping positive energy help with maintaining your brain; however, there is little that can be done to prevent the reduction in homeostasis. But, on the upside, there are the Tarahumara people of Mexico who run 200-mile marathons, regardless of age.
10! My Brain Made Me Do It
You are your brain and body - they are not separate but work together in equally different ways. Which means you should take care of your brain the same way you would care for your body. For instance, you wouldn’t go to sleep without brushing your teeth, right? It’s the same concept applied to your brain. It’s constantly working and making sure every aspect of the body is in order whilst dealing with your consciousness. It needs a break - you need a break- from everyday life and a good tidying through self-reflection.
Now, when I mean you are your brain that is not to give an excuse to anyone for bad behavior - if at any point in time, you’re conscious of an action being wrong or hurtful then that should be a clear sign to you that it probably is. What I mean by this is that people have the ability to change. Information is so widespread and all people have to do is click - and the answers are all there - but I think we’re just so caught up in social media and opinions of other people, news, etc. that we’re missing all this knowledge we could be gaining. With knowledge comes power, and with power comes the responsibility to make the world change for the better. First, people, including myself, should reflect on themselves, and try to find the changes they want to see within them.
Hey, guys! I have sources! If you have any questions or concerns about the data presented in this blog please write or comment and I will post/send my resources!
Imagine - shooting a 15 to 30-minute short film within three days with a 3 person crew- not including the lead actress. There isn’t a lot of dialogue, but there is a lot of location changes, early mornings, late nights, no bathroom breaks, and being kicked off locations or having to cut shooting short. This doesn’t even include the extra actresses used on set, the makeup, and don’t even get me started on the editing process, audio mixing, and coloring. But, overall, Meghan Lane’s short film, Imagine, was worth bringing back my caffeine addiction. Imagine is a short film about a 20-something-year-old woman living in New York City. Although she has a seemingly healthy relationship and a good job, she is still dissatisfied with herself -her appearance - specifically. Throughout her day, you can hear her inner criticisms about her body and how she looks in relation to other advertisements she sees around her. It also portrays her daily fight, and other women's, with overall appearance and weight gain. The lead character resorts to intermittent fasting and constantly working out in order to achieve her “ideal” self. Through Meghan Lane's performance as the lead character in Imagine, she brings to light how it feels to be constantly subjected unrealistic ideals of the human body.Although the film is from a woman’s standpoint, I do not mean to imply that men are not subjected to unrealistic presentations by the media. In truth, men are subjected just as often, only about 18% of commercials directed at men are related to body image. In contrast, at least 50% of commercials directed at women are related to aging, body weight, and physical attractiveness. However, the media cannot take all the blame. Body image has been the subject of artwork and debate since Ancient Greece, in which Hippocrates noted a connection between eating disorders and physical disorders. During the Victorian times, women would starve themselves in order to appear thinner - although, I thought the corsets rearranging organs were enough to give women “hourglass” figures. According to research, eating disorders have a positive correlation with the development of the country the individual resides. For instance, more developed countries, such as the US and UK, have higher incidences of eating disorders than poorer countries. The neuroscience of eating disorder is based on the dopamine reward system. Healthy individuals’ brains are affected in the ventral tegmental area, dorsal/ventral striatum, habenula, hippocampus, thalamus, and amygdala when consuming food. In contrast, individuals with an eating disorder do not show any reward activity when consuming food. Although they resist food intake, they are constantly obsessing over food. This obsession and irritability individuals feel when they’re hungry are results of the lateral hypothalamus. The lateral hypothalamus reminds the consciousness that the body needs food, it is also the center responsible for aggression. Although Imagine’s theme does not revolve around eating disorders, it is centered around negative body image, one of the main symptoms of anorexia nervosa. Additionally, Imagine brings to light the outstanding amount of advertisements directed at women. For instance, I did not realize how much I was accustomed to extremely thin, photoshopped models until I saw Aeropostale’s new bra collection, with still incredibly thin models, and Fenty’s lingerie collection, with a range of size models. Essentially, I forgot how a true waist appeared, even though I had been striving for my ideal waist for years, I had forgotten that all bodies come in different sizes and waist measurements. My waist doesn’t determine my value. Working with Meghan Lane in Imagine was not only a lesson in directing stamina but also a lesson to myself about my image.Imagine film was written & produced by Meghan Lane, directed by Ash Showler, produced & shot & edited by Justin Frabasile, & produced by Nicole Fornario. Support Imagine film on Indiegogo page!
Before I finish Part II Brain Misconceptions Series, I just want to address a disorder that is true to me. It took me these past two weeks to complete the painting shown below. It is a 6 inch by 6-inch hardback canvas in oil paint. Although I had a more detailed project I was working on, the techniques and colors involved in the one below were basic. Technically it was a project which should’ve taken me two days max with paintings in between. But I couldn’t work. Couldn’t concentrate. My work was staggered with points of zoning out, staring at the wood grain on my desk to painting then to periods of severe anxiety then back to painting then to tearful crying as I did so.
Coupled with the marked decrease in sunlight, I am honestly, a wreck.
Although I have my moments, I consider myself a relatively calm, organized person; at least, until my menses. My paintings and my relationships are strained by Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Unmedicated I show symptoms of paranoia, severe anxiety, and depression, mood swings, severe anger decreased interest in everything, fatigue, inability to eat, severe joint pain, and zero concentration on anything. Medicated on an SSRI coupled with seasonal depression (since I was 16), I show symptoms of paranoia, depression, decreased attention and interest in my work, mood swings, and severe anxiety. Literally, everything I already had just on a smaller scale - but still takes a big enough chunk out of my time to prevent me from functioning in and outside of work. The first few days before my period I begin to feel severe fatigue. The first day before the panic attacks start, anger kicks up, and I essentially become a control-freak monster. The first full day of bleeding, I only have anxiety and some anger if I take a Xanax. By the second day, my period is in full swing, and I’m crying for no reason, yelling, and I can’t paint or eat. All I can do is cry and sleep. Kudos to Justin for holding it together as I fell apart this week.My symptoms appeared when I was 18, during my freshman year of college. I would lay in bed for days before my period, only getting up to go to class. I didn’t know there was a diagnosis for it until I was 22 when I tried birth control upon birth control attempting any solution to my erratically sensitive hormones (message me for further details if you’re in the same boat in finding a good birth control). By summer 2017, I had exhausted all attempts to control my hormones and feel like myself on birth control. Even my doctor said my only option would be another low dose hormone IUD and hope my body accepted it (last time I had an IUD was Paragard - it was the WORST).
“You’re just on your period” never had a more significant meaning to me till I was diagnosed.
Now, it’s the last day of my menses. All symptoms have basically disappeared, and I feel more like myself with hints of anxiety. I’m going to start working out and paying more attention to my diet since medication is not an option, except for my daily SSRI and PCOS medication. But it’s trial and error. I want to be better, and not let my depression, both seasonal and premenstrual stop me from functioning and from being a good person.Attached is a series of links to articles concerning PMS, PMDD and the serotonergic system:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9378691https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/11041380https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/11041378https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453003000982https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/9418742
Short blurb on Voyage Houston's article and upcoming eventsRead More
You only use 10% of your brain
Actually, you use all of your brain almost 100% of the time - even as you sleep, the body is healing while the mind is cleaning house by making old connections permanent or canceling unused memory links. Additionally, stabilizing inner chemistry. As you sleep, the brainstem is active, maintaining breathing and heart rate. Even when you’re watching television or zoning out, you’re using the default system of your brain while intaking information. For those who refer to functional MRIs and PETs, the activity shown is after the machine has been calibrated on the resting state activity; thus the activity during the task is relative to resting state activity. Additional proof is seen in the anatomy of the brain itself. Our brains would not need as much complexity if only 10% were being used. Nature is a very efficient inventor, if a trait is unnecessary or resource-wasteful, then the quality tends to be cut. Using 10% would not evolve a brain as complex as we have today. Just to give some background, the 10% theory is thought to be originated in psychologist and philosopher William James’ 1908 book The Energies of Men stating, “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”
Left v. Right Brained
This is a rather big misconception based on the anatomy of the brain. Most media sites sell articles which group people with similar behaviors into neat categories so individual behavior may be predictable (safe). Essentially, the brain is divided by hemispheres by function but not based on left and right handedness. The dominant hand only exhibits which region is dominant. The dominant hemisphere will be analytic in function, detail-oriented, and pertain to language, logic, and mathematics. The nondominant hemisphere will contain areas associated with creativity, music and spatial processing; however, schizophrenia has recently been thought to relate to extreme creativity. 10% of the world is left-handed, thus the right hemisphere is dominant, which defines analytics, mathematics, detail, and everything listed previously. Unfortunately, the media and popular psychology sites only apply rules associated with right-handed individuals, thus claiming left-handed individuals are more creative and intuitive than their counterparts. The truth of the matter is that all individuals are creative, analytical, and detail oriented in specific ways about their developmental processes, regardless of handedness.
Battle of the Sexes
We’ve all been there - talking to someone of the opposite sex and feeling like we speak two different languages. With evolving gender fluidity, gender differences researched since the infancy of psychology are being called to question. This debate is not without bias or political undertones. Due to the large portion of data prior to what could be considered a second gender revolution, research paper’s bias leans towards dimorphic differences between males and females. However, most of these papers study grown individuals who have, in some ways, been influenced at high degrees by society’s pre-existing roles through education, gender stereotypes, cultural values, and gender equity. The papers referred to in this section are the most recently published; although researchers still may have some bias, most include meta-analysis of previous work without the bias of a grant looming over the researcher’s head. The problems standing in the way of gender differences are multifacetedly starting with development in utero to adulthood. One part is what gender does the individual identify with - and how hormones in the prenatal environment helped shape the individual in utero. Additionally, psychological disorders and the parental pressures to conform to a gender play a major role. Also, anatomical gender differences cannot connect with differences in persona or intellectual ability and how plasticity plays a role in development. Based on Janet Hyde’s research and meta-analysis of previous work on 124 psychological variables, 78% of effect sizes are close to, if not zero including the long-lasting preconception “Where boys outperform girls in math.” However, her research concedes there is a large gender difference in subcortical brain volumes, motor performance (d=2.18), and mental rotation of 3D objects (d=0.51-0.73). Overall male and female cognitive abilities are essentially the same at birth but are shaped further by the world around them and social pressures.
Extroversion v. Introversion
Again, another of case of generalizing a psychological theory and attempting to divide individuals into tidy behavioral groups. Extroversion and introversion originated in Hans Eysenck’s Theory of Personality broken into three dimensions. The three dimensions blend to create a personality with behavioral traits. The other two aspects include stability-neuroticism and psychoticism-normality. Extroversion is based on an “aroused nervous system,” mostly, individuals with extroversion tend to crave socializing and gain more energy from the presence of other individuals.In contrast, introversion is the opposite. It tends to describe more reserved and quiet, lose energy when around large groups of people. Obviously, adhering strictly to either introversion or extroversion does not cover the entirety of an individual’s personality. For instance, I am an introvert. On a regular day, I can keep my energy high for roughly two hours while with friends but after that time limit the energy I expended socializing is drained and I need to be alone to reset. However, if I’m sad or if I’ve been dumped, I’m the exact opposite. I crave going out, meeting new people and any socializing possible. Basically, Eysenck knew that individuals are going to have a blend and although personality traits can be categorized they should not be divided on a strict basis between introversion and extroversion.
This misconception is pretty brief. Men, women, the judicial system, and the capitalist, American society believe women are the lead caretakers. Whether it's from giving the mother sole custody in a divorce, awarding the wife alimony despite having full-grown children, or maternity leave, society has set women as the sole nurturers. This is a fallacy, that is harmful in some cases. Although women have the ability and choice whether to have children, it does not automatically make them well-equipped caretakers. In the paper Human Maternal Brain Plasticity: Adaptation to Parenting, researchers explore the behavior changes of the mother in late pregnancy to postpartum periods in relation to fMRIs and ERPs. Researchers found during late pregnancy, the mother exhibited increased vigilance to threats, increased sensitivity, and an increased attachment to the fetus. At postpartum, the mother was more sensitive to her child's behavior, facial expressions and needs and exhibited more signs of worrying about the child. However, these responses were dampened if the woman was taking medication during or after the pregnancy if the mother suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or other disorders. Once the roughly 2 or 3 years old the maternal behavior is decreased. However, this does not mean all women are able to handle the stress involved in raising the child during the infant's sensitive period. Many studies from the Emotional Brain Institute find that stress from lack of resources and daily life has been shown to lead to child abuse even at young ages down to neonates. Essentially the research finds there is no such instinct as the "maternal" instinct, just the willingness to reproduce. Many individuals do not have the ability to cope with their own stress, much less the additional stress of raising a child in a stable, safe environment. In many cases, the men can provide the same care, if not better, than women.
Self Portrait day! This is a portrait of me without makeup on a regular day at work - with my typical smile :) I'd rather portray my honest, every day, wake-up-give-me-coffee self than someone who appears to be well rested and maintained. I care for myself but concentrate on my work more than satisfying my intense vanity and I wanted to show that here. Though, to a point I believe I have nearly understood my true self for this age, I wonder if my concepts of true self are recognition of repetitive behaviors I have noticed in my life and applying these behaviors to hypothetical alternatives or is it a combination of my past and my personality combined to goals? When all external forces are stripped away, what composes my true self?
"I wonder if my concepts of true self are recognition of repetitive behaviors and applying these behaviors to hypothetical alternatives?"
The true self was an idea originally created by Maslow’s theory of self-actualization which was further developed by Karen Horney who divided growth into healthy and neurotic categories. Healthy growth is when the individual has developed to his/her fullest potential, and is true to her/himself - knowing who one is and what one appreciates. In contrast, the individual falling into the false self has limited personal growth which is stagnated by unrealistic ideas and feelings. These delusions, lies, or any form of idealization leave the person disconnected from their true selves. Additionally, the presentation of the false self sucks energy from personal development into the true self. Essentially, the individual spends so much time “keeping up the image” of the false self to even begin to develop a true self.Although the American society’s conception of true and false self is based largely on Christian morality, describing the “false” self as lies, lustfulness, envy, et cetera, this is untrue. A large part of becoming your true self is recognizing that those feelings are a part of you. Essentially accepting the light and dark inside of you but understanding there must be a balance of emotion. For instance, consistent lies, envy, or jealousy aren’t healthy emotions. They breed negativity to an extent, but as long as you recognize them and do not dwell on those thoughts or feelings then it is good overall perception and close to your true self. The true self is creating a connection with you; your passions, dislikes, sources of happiness, and ideas of social justice for yourself and others while understanding the darker side of those qualities and knowing when they occur - a sense of self-reflection.
“only when [a person] fully experiences the feeling which at an organic level he is...that he is being a part of his real self.” - Carl Rogers
To further break down my concept of my true self, my character, I made a web and began eliminating the external forces which pushed me one way or another. Although it is slightly complicated, allowing the default system and conscious self to wander hand-in-hand through memories gives a better idea of who you are as a sole individual.Mini Sample Web - missing a large portions of my life
A study conducted by Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania recently researched individuals with Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Major Depressive Disorders, and control groups. Results show a correlation between high accuracy on complex cognition domain and verbal reasoning and diagnosis of Bipolar I and high accuracy on emotional recognition and Major Depressive Disorders. However, Bipolar II ranked similarly with control group individuals. Researchers did not determine which phase the individuals were in during tested or what medications (if any) the individuals were taking. This paper increases relevance to the evolutionary viewpoint of mental illness. In other words, what role does mental illness play in the survival of our species? For instance, schizophrenia has the same prevalence in all societies across the world; additionally, it has been written in history dating back to the Middle Ages of Western cultures. What does mental illness provide us with? Is it a way to stop us from suffering from another, perhaps worse disease, like sickle-cell anemia? Or is it a way to problem-solve creatively or act as an environmental warning gone haywire?Check out the link below for the paper and let me know what you think!https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5441552/pdf/nihms861729.pdf
What categorizes abnormality?
- Dangerousness to self and others
- Maladaptiveness - is the behavior interfering with the individual’s ability to live fully
- Irrationality - can the behavior be explained?
- Violation of Standards - is the individual violating social standards?
- Rareness and Unconventionality
- Causes distress to self and others
However, to be considered mentally ill, an individual does not have to meet all of these qualifications. Additionally, to be considered for a diagnosis, the individual does not have to meet all of the following criteria but key characteristics of that disorder. For this analysis on the evolutionary basis of psychopathology, the two pathological disorders which will be discussed in relation to evolutionary theory are Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A variety of characteristics entail Narcissistic Personality disorder, including unabashed entitlement, lack of empathy towards other, envy, arrogant behavior, a sense that he/she is better than others, and he/she is special or unique in some way different from the majority. An individual with narcissistic personality disorder requires admiration and attention at most times. They often delude themselves into believing in their control, power, immense success, and beauty. Additionally, they feel self-important compared to others, masking a fragile identity and not a true self. Despite the tough exterior a narcissist will front, the individual usually oscillates between feelings of inferiority to superiority. Close relationships are distant although parasitic in nature. Narcissists categorize themselves as lonely and may seem to be the most "feeling" of individuals, though deep down they still lack empathy. Surface level guilt, loyalty, and concern may be shown; however, they are essentially surface-level emotions. Narcissistic Personality Disorder occurs in roughly 6% of the United States' population. In contrast, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a dysfunction distinguished by a traumatic event or series of traumatic events resulting in symptoms somewhat debilitating for the individual. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder have symptoms like insomnia, angry outbursts, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, nightmares related to trauma, flashbacks, and exaggerated startle responses. For instance, if a child were abused by an individual who was right handed any adult raising their right hand in front of the child while facing him/her would see a startle response in the child. Similarly, if an abusive partner, when angry, began banging cabinet doors and other items prior to attacking his/her partner, the victim (abused partner) would begin to panic, enter a state of hypervigilance prior to and after the attack. The hypervigilance would begin once the sound of banging started. Severe cases of PTSD results in dissociation, excessive, inappropriate emotions, impulsivity, depression, and self-destructive behavior. Interestingly, Borderline Personality Disorder is thought to be a misunderstood or severe version of PTSD mainly due to many cases of BPD have a history of chronic abuse. Individuals with BPD have symptoms similar to Narcissistic Personality Disorder in that they are impulsive, maintain chaotic relationships and self-mutilating behavior. Oddly, Borderline Personality patients and Narcissistic Personality patients have a tendency to develop very co-dependent relationships with each other.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
***Chart produced based on information provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The information provided in the chart is copied from DSM-V.***
In relation to evolution, both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder have distinct patterns to ensure survival based on the situation. PTSD prepares the body for an oncoming fight or flight based on previous experiences. For instance, hypervigilance is the body maintaining high adrenaline levels to ensure success when faced with a threat. Whether a partner is ready to abuse his/her significant other, at least the significant other is prepared by past experience to run when need be. Unfortunately, the long-term stress on the emotional and endocrine system reduces their ability to function and react properly - even in future offspring. Additionally, long-term stress reduces the immune system response and increases the likelihood of illness and inflammation in the body. During a hypervigilant state, the individual can only focus on one thing: the threat or perceived threat. All other thoughts and responsibilities cannot be worked on because of the hypervigilance, resulting in zero concentration. This is maladaptive in our time since most of life rotates around a 5 day a week, 9 to 5 job. Our current society is not set up to allow the individual to cope with the conflict on the schedule of his/her body. Additionally, with widespread social media, email, text, and cell phones in general, threats or perceived threats can be made anywhere and at any time - triggering panic in the victim. Basically, PTSD prepares a victim of trauma to survive. Narcissistic Personality Disorder plays a role more covertly, in a sense. Narcissists are often charming but do not have an integrated identity. Although they seem to have goals in every society, they essentially did not grow into their true selves. The front they portray can provide protection, better resources, better reproductive opportunities, and nowadays, better job opportunities. Some might consider Charles Manson a narcissist. he was able to gain followers and convince them enough of his own beliefs for them to be willing to kill and carry out a life sentence. Although research indicates more males suffer from narcissism and antisocial disorders, females may go undiagnosed due to the societal pressures placed on the socialization of females. In other words, females may be just as likely to suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder but may go undiagnosed by unconscious means of hiding it.Overall both personalities increase self-preservation and some in more direct ways than others with the end-all goal being survival and reproduction.
***Disclaimer: All messages are received from my mom. Most of these messages were sent in 2015; however, there are a few which were sent withing the past five months. I have tried speaking to her calmly about the ways she addresses Richie and I in addition to her anger outbursts. Despite my efforts, she refuses to realize she needs help. After my entire life being filled with these phyiscal and emotional outbursts, I decided it was finally time to cut ties. My brother, Richie still speaks to her, though she tried calling the cops on him this past August after an emotional upset about him having dinner with her father. The messages below also reflect times when she would not allow me to speak with Richie, thought she continues on about I "abandoned" the family, though I secretly kept communication with Richie and my dad. Additionally, there were multiple bills she did not pay which includes: a phone bill (thus I turned off her phone) and a house bill (owed to my father).***
This collection does not include most recent outbursts.
A for Alternative Facts
B for Beat
C for Call Home
D for Destroy
E for Evil
F for Funeral
G for Gifts
H for Hate
I for Insurance
J for Joke
K for King Richard
L for Lazy Bum
M for Mother's Day
N for New York
P for Popmoney
Q for Quit
R for Redneck
S for SAT
T for Two Days
U for USPS
W for Wrong
X for XXX
Y for You
Apart from the acrylic childhood paintings in my Granny's kitchen, I never received training for any art - whether from sketches to oil paints. I only drew what I knew and practiced. It stopped around the time my family, and I moved to Florida, around the time I moved from my Granny, the best woman I have ever known. Any drawings or doodles I kept to myself. I was not very forthcoming, to begin with as a child, and even less so since no one asked. Being raised by a mentally ill mother and absent father did not encourage creativity, much less self-esteem, especially when I did everything "wrong." It did encourage a healthy sense of depression, self-mutilation, anxiety and tiptoeing around the latest debacle. When slamming of cabinet doors started, I wanted to become invisible. Adrenalin rushed, and I transformed into a silent, ghost-maid; cleaning the house quietly and playing the "good child." If my faults were pointed out, I would gather my belongings and lay them on her dresser as penance for my "misdeeds." I didn't realize how much I was damaged until I left for college which was shortly followed by my first relationship.By my first semester of college, I had full-blown seasonal depression- like a yearly allergy to the dark, cold streets of Brooklyn. Upon my second semester, I entered an abusive relationship - I didn't know it at the time, and I thought that because it was the same love I received at home, it was the same love I deserved in college. I dated "normal" guys but somehow felt nothing (if you read some of my previous research on dopamine's role in neonatal pups during traumatic experiences with a maternal presence it will explain why). I was permanently transferring codependence from my mother to a significant other - who happened to have the same controlling, jealous, angry aspects. By April 2015, the semester I was due to graduate, I was admitted to NYU Tisch Psychiatric Ward for a suicide attempt. That past year I drank heavily, missed the majority of my classes because I could not leave my apartment, was heavily medicated on Zoloft and Klonopin, and felt I was failing my life entirely.I needed someone to accept me wholly and show they cared; however, and as corny as it sounds, I needed to accept myself. This process took the better of two years and is still in progress. Learning to make my own mistakes and the good with the bad with most people was a large part of it. I received a lot of support from a close family (not mine, of course) I met that year. I also consistently worked on Dialectical Behavior Therapy and art therapy for the emotions I could not manage. Art enabled me to transport myself away from the labyrinth in my head. Most of my work circles around human anatomy, expressing depression, panic attacks, anger, and other emotions. The collection of these works developed into Fallrisk Art - named after the wristbands given to patients upon entering the hospital.Fallrisk is an interactive art show dedicated to increasing mental illness awareness, reducing the stigma attached to mental illness and increasing funding towards research. If all goes well, and I'm not too busy with work, school, and applying for my Master's, Fallrisk Art show should take place in August 2019 with funding on Indiegogo starting January 2019. Although Fallrisk Art show is a primary goal of mine, it is not the end goal. I plan to continue a Fallrisk Art exhibition every year to promote the three primary goals stated above. Additionally, I want to incorporate my extracurricular paintings into my graduate portfolio. Please feel free to contact me for further questions and comments!
My phone dings as I pipette another sample into an Eppendorf tube. I set down the pipette and, with gloved hands, pick up my phone resting in a biohazard bag. It is a photo from father - a person and my dog, Lucy, sleeping in my bed in England. From a glance, I quickly text back asking him why my younger brother, Richie, is sleeping in my room. The following messages consisted of my father insisting the individual in the bed was me, during my stay over Winter Break, and I vehemently denied. Upon closer inspection and another cup of coffee, I realized the Richie alighted on my phone screen, sleeping in my bed was me.My mistake made me curious. Although my brother and I had the same haircut those few months and looked like siblings, how did I misrecognize my self? We all have those moments when we scare ourselves in the mirror while it's dark and we're alone after a movie or those other times when someone photographs an angle of yourself which you've never seen before. As a neuroscientist, I am fascinated by anything in the brain. As an aspiring art therapist, I'm more intrigued by how the brain develops a glitch- whether acute or chronic. The following description, and for that matter, the following blogs, will consist of scientific hypotheses and data of which relate to a neuroscience subject.When understanding recognition, most research focuses on testing other species with the mark test. In a Mark Test, the subject is to be able to perceive a red mark on his/her face by seeing it in the mirror. To be self-aware one must understand the mirror is a reflection of him/herself, therefore, using it to remove the mark. When tested on babies between 18 to 24 months, they passed the Mark Test. However, children from less developed nations did not. This increased debate on whether the Mark Test is valid for testing self-awareness. Although the test has worked on elephants, chimpanzees, and dolphins, it has also worked with pigeons as well (as a New Yorker, I detest pigeons and think they're as self-aware as amoebas in a lake). With this information in mind, the Mark Test may not be as accurate at determining self-awareness as initially thought. Additionally, previous work by Chang et al., the mark test was shown to be a test of spatial reasoning of the individual to their reflection. Although the mirror can still show self-awareness, this answer does make it plausible for self-aware individuals to fail it.Although developmental and behavioral psychology studied the Mark Test based on exterior responses, I wanted to find the internal motivations. In other words, I wanted to know the circuitry which allowed me to misrecognize myself and my reflection. Unfortunately, this is an area with a lot of missing information. As far as I could find, it was the fusiform face area which is responsible for facial recognition - thus, it should play some role in recognition. However, the following studies I will relate are based on face recognition via images using fMRI and subdural ERP measures - not Mark Test. Though it explains facial recognition in humans and primates, it does not tell how I know the reflection in the mirror is me.Subdural ERP in macaques found that 'face cells,' face-specific cells in the fusiform face area, reacted at a much higher amplitude than when shown everyday objects, such as a banana. In fact, the face-cells' reaction when viewing an everyday object was one-fifth less than viewing a face. Similarly, human fMRIs show activation of the superior temporal sulcus, the occipital face area, and the fusiform face area. It was noted that these areas were not activated during the presentation of everyday objects or body parts. In fact, the fusiform body area was activated only for the presentation of body parts. Although the tests were performed using fMRI and images, it does not explain recognizing oneself in a mirror. A study on children showed it took them a longer amount of time to recognize themselves in other media, such as films and photographs, than in a mirror. This finding is similar to results observed in Alzheimer's patients, and the patient is unable to recognize him/herself in recent photographs but able to identify her/himself in a mirror. Similarly, schizophrenia patients fail at the Mark Test and misrecognize family/friends.Overall, recognizing oneself is not as straightforward as expected. Variations in types of stimulus result in more variation in processing.Although, there have been plenty of times where I don't recognize myself in the mirror or a photograph, and I'm sure there will be more to come, every day I feel as if the me reflected isn't there. As if who I'm seeing is not me. The real me looks different, maybe more naive? Or warped, like a photo cut from many angles, then pieced back together. I do not recognize myself as the days march along, and I avoid looking into it. Some days are so chaotic and beaten that I have to look at the consequences on my face - to see how the stress dragged my mouth into a frown and purpled my eyes. When I look into the reflective pool above my sink, I wonder who the hell am I? And...Does anyone know who is looking back at them?